Hyperlinks and Patents

The Hyperlink Patent Case


Ten years ago I found myself at the centre of a storm. I was CEO of QED Intellectual Property, the patent licensing business. I had been advising Global 1000 Companies that they should be looking at their patent portfolios strategically. Use IP to protect your business, enforce your rights or license out the unused patents in your portfolio.

The outsourced IP industry was in it's infancy and was gaining attention through books like "Rembrandts in the Attic".

We had been working with British Telecom, licensing their Optical Fibre Amplifier patents around the world with great success, when one of the most controversial patents of all time was discovered in their vast portfolio of over 14,000 patents. The Sargent patent was referred to as a "rock star in the patent world" (the first time that phrase was used and is now more common).

A patent had been discovered, with an application date in 1970’s, that potentially covered hypertext links or as wired.com described “Imagine if one company held the right to collect a fee each time an Internet user clicked on a website link and jumped to another Web page”.

We prepared a licensing strategy for BT, advising of the potential controversy. BT decided to pursue Prodigy, one of the earliest ISP's, as a test case.

The first round court hearing found against BT and they decided to drop the case after the enormous amount of PR that had been generated.

The debate about software patents has raged on ever since. The US and the EU have diverged in opinion about the acceptability of software patents.

I have very much swung behind the open-standard model and that’s what I look for in software investments. Datpresenter has been championing W3C and SCORM, SubHub is built using Drupal 7 and Comparison Creator using Python, both Open Source languages. 


Click to read my interview with Ventius the now defunct online IP magazine.

All material copyright David Hulston Associates Ltd.  @davidhulston1
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David Hulston

Indycube Ventures

Indycube Ventures offers funding and expert advice to entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs and small-business owners based at coworking space network Indycube are being offered access to a half-million-pound annual funding stream and expert advice.



"We have benefited greatly from David's experience, counsel and contacts on a wide range of issues. His past experience in the IP space is particularly useful to Inngot, but even without that, he is just the sort of investor and non-executive director a high growth business needs. He sees potential, makes connections, and keeps us focused on the things that matter."Martin Brassell, CEO, Inngot Ltd